St. Lucie Power Plant Sea Turtle Monitoring Program
Not many people think of the St. Lucie nuclear power plant as a center for sea turtle conservation, but it is. Water is drawn in from the Atlantic Ocean at a rate of one million gallons per minute in order to cool the nuclear reactors. In addition to the cooling water, sea turtles are also drawn through the intake pipes into a secure area of the intake canal about the size of a football field. Since 2009, Inwater Research Group has overseen the safe return of these sea turtles back into the wild. Access to these turtles has provided a tremendous amount of opportunity for conservation research. Since the program began in 1976, over 16,000 sea turtles have contributed to this important portrait of sea turtle life history. Inwater Research Group scientists, along with other agencies, have used the information gathered from these turtles to help answer many questions about Florida’s sea turtles: How many sea turtles are there? What are some of the population trends that exist? Where do they travel? How long is their maturation period? What threatens their survival? The program also provides a vital opportunity for sick or injured sea turtles to be transferred to rehabilitation centers until they are healthy enough to be returned back into the wild.